Most companies are moving from the fragmented use of emails and spreadsheets and, quite rightly, they are often most focused on centralising their contract data. This allows them to finally get on top of renewals and start to provide the management reporting the business so badly needs.
The next stage for a company in maturing their contract management processes involves automating key business processes using workflows.
Most CLM solution providers have some form of workflow feature in place but this may not be given the same level of scrutiny in the buying process, as it has seemed more of a ‘next phase’ initiative.
When it comes to Workflows, not all are created equal - the devil really is in the detail.
22 questions to ask about automated contract workflows
All companies’ requirements are different and require customised data to suit their industry and use case.
The 20 questions listed below will help you understand if your preferred solution can support you long term
Workflow Triggers & Custom Data
- Can you trigger a Workflow with any core or custom Contract data?
- Example: Trigger Contract Type = ‘MSA’ + Contact End Date = ‘Less than 3 months’
- Can you combine data fields together to trigger workflows
- Example: Trigger Contract Type = ‘MSA’ + Department = ‘IT” + Value = ‘> $1m’ + Contact End Date = ‘Less than 3 months’
- Can you trigger workflows for files that have expired, such as Insurance certificates?
- Example: Trigger File Type = ‘Insurance’ + File Expiry Date = ‘Less than 3 months’
- Can any type of contract or supplier risk be mitigated using workflows?
- Example: A drop in financial credit score triggers a mitigation workflow and notifies the compliance team
Approvals & Workflow Routing
- Can you configure simple conditional routing?
- Example: All contracts over $1m in value should be routed to the submitter’s Team Manager and then the CEO for approval
- Can you configure complex conditional routing?
- Example: All contracts over $1m in the category ‘IT’ should be routed to the InfoSec team for approval and then the submitter’s Team Manager and then the CEO for approval
- Can you route workflows based on the management structure of the organisation automatically?
- Example: Send this contract request to the requestor’s manager.
- Example: Send this contract request to the requestor’s manager and their manager if the value is over $1m
Generating & Updating Contract Records
- Can you generate Contract records from data within a workflow in a single click?
- Example: Convert a Contract Request Form to a Contract Record without the need for data entry
- Can you update contract records from a workflow with a single click?
- Example: Manage contract variation workflows and update the Contract record
- Can you clone a contract on a workflow?
- Example: Manage a contract renewal workflow by generating a clone automatically linked to the previous archived contract record
User Permissions & Out-of-Office Management
- Can you hide sensitive data from some users within a workflow?
- Example: Hide all comments from the legal team from the rest of the workflow approvers
- Can you delegate approvals to other users when key stakeholders are on leave?
- Example: Delegate all approvals for ‘Bob’ to ‘Lucy’ between ‘1st-Feb-2020 to 14th-Feb-2020’
- Are all of the steps in the workflow audited?
- Example: All stages and any changes throughout the workflow are captured in a searchable audit log
Service Level Agreements (SLA) and Escalation
- Can you set SLAs at each stage of the workflow to identify bottlenecks?
- Example: Sales contracts over $1m should be in legal review for less than 5 business days
- Can you escalate workflows if a user takes too long to perform a task?
- Example: If a contract owner does not complete their review within 5 business days escalate to their manager
- Can multiple processes be combined into a single workflow?
- Example: Onboard a supplier including NDA contract generation, eSignature and automated credit score
- Can mandatory checklists be added to workflows to ensure offline processes are complete prior to any approval?
- Example: Configure a list of mandatory questions with an audit log to ensure accountability throughout the process
- Can you trigger a workflow from any third-party system and also update this data at the end of the workflow?
- Example: An ERP (e.g. NetSuite, Dynamics, SAP) initiates a vendor review and the updated vendor record data is sent back to the ERP automatically
Best Practice Libraries and Implementation
- Can you select from a library of best-practice templates to help build workflows?
- Example: Build a contract renewal workflow with a single click from the library
- What is the cost of additional workflows if not included in your implementation services and can I configure these workflows myself?
- Example: Some providers can charge significant fees if you are unable to configure workflows easily and/or the service is not included within the implementation
Greater efficiency and reporting
- Can you create parallel workflows?
- Example: Can Procurement approve an agreement from their perspective while Legal is still reviewing it?
- Can you provide workflow reporting?
- Example: Can you provide data about each of our processes, including the average contracting time?
Best Practice Workflows
- Do you offer best-practice templates so we can self-serve?
- Example: We want to get started with different workflows and learn about their configuration as we go, is this possible?
Plan out your workflows and assign ownership
A lot of fairly standardised sets of activities grouped into processes can be needed in CLM practices, such as:
- Request a new contract
- Build / modify a contract template
- Build / modify a contract clause template
- Build a standard contract
- Negotiate a new contract
- Approve a new contract
- Sign a new contract
- Onboard a new third-party
- Implement a new contract
- Review a contract
- Request a contract amendment
- Apply a contract amendment
- Manage contract obligations
- Review contract performance
- Review third-party performance
- Renew a contract
- Terminate a contract.
The extent of contract management processes in place depends largely on the organisation’s level of CLM maturity, something that takes commitment, time, planning and effort to achieve and grow.
It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but the lower the CLM maturity level, the more likely only a basic subset of CLM practices are in place, and that translates to a bare minimum of consistent processes being used.
Every CLM process in use must be carefully documented. Details are needed about the activities, roles and responsibilities, process step hand-offs, timing, methods, calculations, measurements and indicators, and anything else important for understanding exactly how, and how well, each process works.
Once you’ve planned out the workflows you need to optimise, you’ll also need to assign who owns what. Each department should have a clear responsibility for specific parts of the lifecycle.
Critically, every process needs to have an owner, a go-to person to handle questions and complaints about its details and suitability, be involved in any necessary changes, report about its performance, and so on.
Watch this webinar to see workflows in action within Gatekeeper.
Anybody directly or indirectly involved in CLM activities covered by processes is likely to have opinions about what other processes are needed, and how desperately, to undertake other activities that would help deliver the purpose of each contract.
It’s important that this sort of feedback is requested, considered and acted on where possible, to produce improved CLM outcomes across the board as well as to help increase the organisation’s CLM maturity level.
Whether it’s Legal for redlining or Sales for the final approval, ownership and accountability are important to keep contracts progressing. Delays can result in fraught relationships from the outset, internal frustrations and, at worst, lost deals.
A lack of ownership and visibility combined with manual chasing gives way to bottlenecks and slows down time-to-contract."
The Kanban Workflow Engine from Gatekeeper allows you to map out all of your contract processes. It digitises every step involved in your internal processes - from a single notification to an entire review workflow.
Completely customisable, you can visualise each internal process and assign specific cards to different stakeholders. Ownership of cards, phases and workflows is shared between all stakeholders, so accountability can always be driven.
Visualise and optimise internal processes with best-practice templates
The workflows you planned out in the previous step might be processes you go through each time you create a new contract or onboard a new supplier. Rather than spending time on remapping each internal process, best practice contract templates can be used to optimise common contract workflows.
Internal efficiencies can be unlocked when you don’t have to spend hours planning, customising and tweaking the ways you already work.
Using best-practice templates allows you to automate and manage existing internal processes, without extra administrative overheads.
Apply best practices to your internal processes with best-practice templates
Whether you’re new to workflow configuration or want to try a new workflow as part of your processes, best practice workflow templates will help.
These instantly configurable workflows, complete with set-up guides that take you through mandatory configuration steps, allow your stakeholders to self-serve and drive the efficiencies they need
Best practice workflow templates can be added within a few clicks and they contain the most powerful features within the Kanban Engine. Leverage greater control without having to start from scratch.
With contract management automation at your fingertips, you can minimise the manual administration away from areas such as contract routing and approvals, tracking renewals and chasing suppliers for information.
Route contracts automatically and approve them simultaneously
With contract automation solutions that focus on workflows, time no longer needs to be spent searching through inboxes for agreements or sending chasing emails.
Collaboration doesn’t need to be fragmented and the entire routing process can be standardised. By automatically routing contracts to relevant reviewers, collaboration becomes seamless and action can be taken swiftly.
Bottlenecks can build up when a contract’s progress is blocked by certain stakeholders being unable to complete their step of the process. Rather than delaying time-to-contract, automated workflows can be used to set multiple approval groups within any internal workflow phase.
Route and track approvals easily with Gatekeeper
These groups can review and approve contracts in parallel to one another and create greater internal efficiency. Simultaneous approvals improve collaboration across all approvers, reduce time to completion and eliminate bottlenecks.
Automate actions and reminders to manage contracts proactively
Small steps and entire workflows can be made more efficient with Gatekeeper’s Auto-Actions. Simply choose which actions can be automated to save time and to give your business more control. Popular automated actions include notifications and alerts sent to relevant stakeholders when key dates are on the horizon.
Nobody needs to spend time in a spreadsheet tracking the expiry dates for compliance-related documents or renewal dates. But if the relevant stakeholders aren’t aware that these dates are coming, your business could end up spending money for services that are no longer required or even becoming non-compliant if certifications expire.
Use Auto-Actions to automate workflows and send notifications well ahead of time. Not only does this increase internal efficiency but it gives you complete control.
Internal efficiencies can’t be gained from manual and fragmented contract management approaches. By using contract management software that’s built around a Kanban Workflow Engine and methodology, you can automate, standardise and streamline your internal processes.
If you’re ready to see how Gatekeeper can help you to automate your workflows and unlock internal efficiencies, book a demo now.